Average NBA Game Length

How Long Is an NBA Game? Average NBA Game Length

An NBA game lasts for 48 minutes divided into 4 quarters. But of course that doesn’t tell us a lot about how much time it actually takes to play these 48 minutes of net play time.

I found a way to export the game data from nba.com starting from the 2015/16 season and took a closer look at actual average NBA game length. These are the results:

Average NBA Game Length

Chart 1: Average Game Length from 2015/16 – 2021/22

Average Length of Game

2016/20172017/20182018/20192019/20202020/20212021/2022Season0m30m1h0m1h30m2h0m2h30mGame Duration

Season Average Length Median Length
2016/2017 2h14m 2h14m
2017/2018 2h11m 2h10m
2018/2019 2h12m 2h12m
2019/2020 2h14m 2h14m
2020/2021 2h13m 2h12m
2021/2022 2h13m 2h12m

How long are NBA Games?

The average NBA game in the 2021/22 season lasted 2h 13min.

To calculate this data, we looked at regular season games that didn’t go to overtime. You can see in the graph that average game length has not changed much from season to season since 2016/17 varying between 2h 12min and 2h 14 min.

Did the rule changes in 2021 make NBA games shorter?

Before the 2021/22 season the NBA introduced rule changes specifically designed to speed up the end of games. Teams are limited to two timeouts in the final three minutes of a game and automatic reviews on all out-of-bounds plays in the final two minutes were eliminated.

From the data we can see that these changes had no significant impact on game length. The average duration of an NBA game actually increased by 1 minute!

To dig a little further I took a look at close games that were decided by a margin of less than 5 points.

Games decided by 5 points or less during the 2021/22 season were on average 137.9 minutes long compared to 137.3 during the previous five seasons.

So even close games are not significantly shorter on average because of the new rule changes.

Chart 2: Distribution of Length of NBA Games

# of games with specific duration

1h49m2h14m2h39m3h19mSeason090180270360# of games

This bar chart shows game duration (including OT games) of regular season games from 2016 to 2022.

We can see that the most common game length is 2h 12min. Almost 60% of all games take between 2h 5min and 2h 20min.

Close NBA Games Are Longer

Chart 3: Average Duration of NBA Games by Final Score Difference

Average Length of Game

0-55-1010-1515-2020-2525-3030-3535-40Difference Final Score2h0m2h5m2h10m2h15m2h20mGame Duration

Difference Final Score Average Length
0-5 points 2h18m
5-10 points 2h15m
10-15 points 2h12m
15-20 points 2h10m
20-25 points 2h9m
25-30 points 2h9m
30-35 points 2h8m
35-40 points 2h6m

We can see from the chart that there is a clear correlation between how close a game is and how long it is.

Games that are decided by 5 points or less are on average 2h 18min long, while blowouts decided by 30 points or more are more than 10 minutes shorter.

There are at least two reasons for that:

  • In close games coaches will make sure to take all timeouts to draw up plays or make situational substitutions
  • Intentional fouling at the end of close games draws out the length of games

Nationally Televised NBA Games Are Longer

Chart 4: Average Duration of Nationally Televised Games vs Local Games

Length of National TV Games

Length of Local TV Games

2016/20172017/20182018/20192019/20202020/20212021/2022Season0m30m1h0m1h30m2h0m2h30mGame Duration

Season National Games Local Games
2016/2017 2h20m 2h15m
2017/2018 2h15m 2h11m
2018/2019 2h17m 2h13m
2019/2020 2h21m 2h14m
2020/2021 2h18m 2h12m
2021/2022 2h18m 2h13m

The average nationally televised game is about 2h 18min long while the average locally televised basketball game is around 2h 13min long.

Nationally televised games are on average 5 minutes longer because the length of timeouts is increased for additional commercials.

Playoff NBA Games Are Longer

Chart 5: Average Duration of Playoff Games vs Regular Season Games

Length of Regular Season

Length of Playoff Games

2016/20172017/20182018/20192019/20202020/2021Season0m30m1h0m1h30m2h0m2h30mGame Duration

Season Regular Season Games Playoff Games
2016/2017 2h14m 2h27m
2017/2018 2h11m 2h23m
2018/2019 2h12m 2h25m
2019/2020 2h14m 2h26m
2020/2021 2h13m 2h26m

The average playoff NBA game (without OT games) is around 2h 25min long. That’s around 12 minutes longer than an average regular season game.

The added length is due to longer timeouts for added commercials and due to the fact that games are generally closer and therefore take longer because of more timeouts and intentional fouling.

Overtime Adds Around 20 Minutes per OT

Chart 6: Average Duration of Overtime Games

Average Length of Game

Regulation1 OT2 OT3 OTType of Game2h0m2h20m2h40m3h3mGame Duration

Type of Game Average Duration # of games
Regulation 2h13m 6354
1 OT 2h35m 316
2 OT 2h55m 35
3 OT 3h3m 5

Games with one overtime usually last around 2h 35min (22 minutes longer than regulation games) and 2OT games are around 2h 55min long (another 20 minutes longer).

Games with 3 OT’s are very rare and took on average 3h 3min.

Anything Else?

Are you interested in any other statistics around NBA game length? I have all the data, so ask me in the comments and I’ll add it to the article!

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